It's really quite simple - children aren't educated in real depth as to how to deal with money. Financial education forms an apparently small part of the National Curriculum. There is also, it seems, autonomy in schools on the subject meaning that some schools make it a focus, while others don't.
In contrast, religious education must be provided to all pupils on the school roll, unless withdrawn by their parents. Maintained schools are required to follow the locally agreed syllabus approved by their local authority.
Secondary schools must also provide sex education to pupils unless withdrawn by their parents. (1)
At secondary level, these areas are currently mandatory:
Personal wellbeing, which includes the requirements for sex and relationship and drugs education
Economic wellbeing and financial capability which includes the requirements for careers education.
One local school we spoke to explained that they do not cover wills or tax free savings. And talking of tax, based on our enquiries, there seems to be an absence of teaching on that subject, too.
What happened to the concept of 'Give your mum a third, save a third and spend a third'? Maybe a little old-fashioned, but it makes good economic sense. Instead, we are bombarded with adverts about how to borrow money when there is more month than money left. Contrary to what we would all like to be the case, for the cynical among us, there seems to be more profit in lending money than in encouraging folk to be prudent and save it.
The school resource website www.pfeg.org (Personal Finance Education Group) which is a charitable organisation provides resources for teachers and schools. Some of the information is provided by a well-known high-street bank. (2) Very commendable of them.
But given the track records of the banking system in the past few years, it does seem somewhat questionable that we are leaving this vital part of our children's education, in the main to a charity and the banks. There seems to be a connection with them when things go wrong, too: the banks foreclose and the charities step in to help out.
How then can we make sure that children learn about financial planning so that they never reach the stage of foreclosure or bankruptcy? After all, prevention is better than cure.
The National Curriculum seems to have a lot of emphasis on enterprise, making oneself employable and careers advice, but not so much on how to run a household budget or how to shop around to reduce your bills once you have that job, which is surely just as important.
What worries us most though, for many of us as both financial advisers and parents, is the lack of guidance on protecting your income, providing for your family should the very worst happen, saving for the future - both medium and long term - and the importance of making a will. As parents, we can take on some of the responsibility, but that's difficult if you haven't had that training yourself. And, sadly, we find that for many people it's still the case that financial advice is viewed as inaccessible and even with a little bit of fear.
Obviously as independent financial advisers, we take a lot of interest in finance and money and we might have the odd accusation of bias sent our way, however, we'd argue that learning about tax, savings, day to day finances, interest rates and the dangers of 'payday loans' should be as important as other areas of the curriculum. It's in the interests of everyone to know the basics of money. It's a lifelong learning process, which ideally should start in the first years of school and continue throughout.
About the Author:
To find out more about financial
education, call Donna Hansen free on 0800 0112825, e-mail
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given is for general guidance only, and specific advice should be
taken before acting on any suggestions made.
information is based on our understanding of current tax practices,
which are subject to change. The value of shares and investments
can go down as well as up